“I wasn’t born blind, you know?” I once told an acquaintance of mine and shocked her speechless. The first thing she had wanted to know was which was harder, being born blind or becoming blind at an age when you had the world at your fingertips? I was nineteen when I began experiencing vision loss, twenty two when that loss was complete.
I was bitter and resentful during these three years, but for the sake of those around me, I tried to keep those emotions under control. I had realized that it was hard on me, also that it was also hard on them. Watching someone they loved being eaten up by angry, sad emotions.
I remember when it happened. I had just put my baby to sleep and was lazing on a hammock, in my childhood home in Brazil when I realized I could no longer see the slither of the world on my peripheral. I had felt a frisson of anxious fear, disappointment, but curiously, relief had been the prominent emotion. For three years I had been dreading that time, that next episode of vision loss, a sense of hopelessness that I couldn’t help prevent the inevitable from happening. However when it did, I realized there was nothing left to lose, therefore, there was nothing left to fear. I had finally reached the bottom, and the bottom didn’t feel as bleak and hopeless as I had been dreading it would be. I had let fear fester and grow, and it had been the judge and jury of every moment, every action in my life.
For the few days following my complete blindness, I had wandered around the house with a numb, detached sense of myself. I remember I had considered my life, the past years, the coming ones, and asked myself, did I want to go on as I was, lost in a state where I waited for whatever life had in store for me to come on its own? Or pick up the pieces my disability couldn’t take and rebuild on it? It wasn’t a heroic choice, or even a brave one, but a tired of sitting around decision that I simply had to make.
I went back to the Middle East where the other half of my family resided, started taking courses at an organization for women with disabilities. Later I was offered a job there, as a receptionist (with the fancy title of information officer). Sometimes I would travel to other countries to represent the organization and women with disabilities in general.
My son was in pre-school by then, and when the doctor gave the okay for a second child, I quit my job. Lack of funds soon caused the organization to close, but I was walking on the clouds at the time. I picked up my habit of reading from before I became blind, and tried my hand in writing. My third boy followed on his sister’s heel. With three kids and a home, I barely had any time to think of work. Despite falling back on hard times.
But when the question of whether being born blind or becoming blind at a later age was posed to me, I opted for the latter, no hesitations. Life was hard, but mostly it was the hard most people with a financial problem would face. It was hard becoming blind, but it was hard because I let it be.
Life isn’t always roses and chocolates, and there are a lot of ups and downs. However, I have a supportive family, three brilliant kids that help me stand whenever I fall, that make me laugh even when I want to cry; and a love for books and baking that I thoroughly exploit.
I live in a country where women with disabilities are a marginalized, an oppressed sector of society. Organizations for women are few, for women with disabilities even fewer.
I have written a book which I plan to publish soon, an urban fantasy novel for young adults called Heir of Ashes. You can read about it on my blog.
I am moving forward slowly, but forward I move at least. Yes, I have a disability, but my disability doesn’t have me.
Sometimes when life throws you a curb that looks sharp and ominous, all you have to do is slow down and adjust. Most often than not, they are manageable. First and foremost, believe in yourself.
I had to figure most things out on my own, my family had to adjust as I went. Furniture location changes were banned in my house, unless strictly necessary. My kids learned at an early age to keep the cupboard and closet doors closed, to avoid me crashing into them. I still step on a misplaced piece of Lego, dress my youngest in mismatched socks, grab the mayo instead of the peanut butter, but hey, life isn’t perfect.
There are organizations out there for people with special needs who can help you figure things out faster, help you to adjust, connect with others like you, give you advice, and even provide you the necessary means to pursue a profession accordingly.